Compost is a gardener’s black gold. Nutrient rich and environmentally friendly, it makes excellent use of organic waste, and cleans the air both by nourishing new growth and catching and holding carbon in the dirt rather than the atmosphere.
Making good quality compost is more involved than simply putting your grass clippings and egg shells in a pile. Heat is a key element in the production of good quality compost as it helps organic matter break down faster, releasing more precious nutrients without becoming smelly.
There are natural ways a gardener can ensure their compost heap is at the right temperature, which is somewhere between 32 and 60 degrees celsius. Coffee grounds and green waste, like grass clippings and hedge trimmings, are rich in nitrogen, as is chicken poo. The size of a compost heap is important, as it needs to be four to six feet high for there to be a big enough chemical reaction to create the necessary heat.
Gardeners who do not want to wait for their compost pile to mature naturally may consider a heated compost bin. These clever gadgets can create high-quality compost in as little as one month, although two to three months is more typical, greatly reducing the wait for gardeners keen to boost the quality of their soil.
Heated compost bins, such as the HotBin Composter (£199.99, photo below), work using effective insulation which traps the heat created from gasses released by the rotting material. A thermostat and a valve allows gardeners to monitor the temperature and release steam to keep the internal temperature stable. No external power source is required.
Not all organic matter can be composted. Pet droppings, brambles and any sort of animal by-product (except egg shells) should never go in your compost bin. Things like pine cones, sawdust and wood shavings, newspaper and egg cartons will take a long time to break down and should only be added in small amounts. The best compost comes from kitchen waste so throw in your vegetable peelings, coffee grounds, bread and grains to help your garden thrive.